Unless you’re rolling in dough, or your ancestors were wise and bought vast swathes of land in the days before the Planning Authority restricted its sale to the building Brahmins – you probably live in a flat.
You may or may not like living in one, but the fact is that, on a minuscule pebble like Malta, if we wish to retain some land for silly stuff like growing trees which produce air, the sensible way forward is apartment life.
Here are some common pros and woes of living in a flat in Malta:
1a. You don’t have space to put up guests
Your “spare bedroom” contains a mixture of freshly laundered and freshly soiled clothes, a broken guitar you don’t know how to play, three cacti, and one overfed cat. When Sarah visits from London, where she’s doing a diploma in holistic astrology, you can’t offer her a place to stay. Unless it’s the sofa. You’ll have to move the nachos first, though.
1b. You don’t want to put up guests
“Sorry, Sarah, why don’t you ask Dave if he has a spare bed?” You know that Sarah secretly craves a boyfriend, and Dave is as horny as a bajtra tax-xewk, so two birds, one stone, right?
2a. You can hear everything
You know that your neighbour has a healthy sex life. You also know that your other neighbours hate each other and are on the verge of breaking up. You know this because their every moan, scream and giggle is transmitted via the perfect acoustic highway that is your shaft.
2b. Mornings are never lonely
As you sip your morning cappuccino and muse upon the life journey which has led you to this flat, where you are munching your Cheerios alone for yet another cold winter morning, you hear a rambunctious fart, a cheerful toilet flush and smell the aroma of a morning cigarette. A disembodied voice breezily proclaims “Ill****a x’bard hawn dalgħodu!” “Bonġu Salv!” you merrily reply. Saviour has evacuated his bowels, and all is well with the world.
Every night as the sun sets and stray cats begin to stir, ready to make their rounds, your upstairs buddy gathers his refuse and places it gently outside your door, lovingly encased in a black garbage bag, which provides the perfect surface for said felines to rip open in their quest for yesterday’s tuna sandwich. Garbage collection is tomorrow morning, dear, douche-nozzle neighbour.
3b. Borrowing stuff
Since Salvu feels that your afternoon nap can be forfeited in lieu of his rendition of Nessun Dorma, you decide to make a soufflé. Lo and behold, as you whip up the necessary ingredients, you discover that you are short some. Panic is unnecessary, however. You wear your brown sweatpants (with the gaping crotch hole) and hurry up the stairs. “Salv, insiblek żewġ bajdiet?” Cue much hilarity. He’s a funny guy, that Saviour.
Since Salvu is a pot dealer and works from home, you know that he is pretty much always there. This means that you can safely leave the country for weeks and weeks knowing he’s got your back. His Staffordshire terrier deters any burglars and his extra copy of your front door key enables your fridge repair guy to access your premises whilst you are discovering yourself in Nepal. Also, should your cat pass away and begin to decay, Saviour is the man who will gently inform you of the stench that emanates from your balcony and arrange for disposal of the corpse.
If you live in either the ground floor flat, or the penthouse, you will have experienced the bane that is requests for access. At the time of contract-signing, it was but a footnote in the foot-thick sheaf of papers you initialed individually. But now, Bernice from 307 needs the key to the roof so that she can realign her satellite dish to catch the transmission of The Bold and the Beautiful in glorious HD. Lawrence from 310 needs to plant his ladder in your yard whilst he hammers in the support for his hanging Father Christmas, but don’t worry, it shouldn’t take him more than two or three weeks.
5a. Your neighbour’s problems are yours too
Salvu is passed out on his bathroom floor after a night of debauched drinking and possibly illegal sexual undertakings. Unfortunately, he left the bath running just before he decided to take a short nap in his vomit. Salvu’s problem is his next water bill and replacing his flat’s carpets. Your problems are the forest of mould that next week will present to you on your soffit, the repair bill of your moist television and the cessation of cardiac activity that you risk when you step into a puddle that is in contact with one of your electricity sockets.
5b. Your problems are your neighbours’ too
“Bernice, ħu paċenzja ejj’għini nxappap dal-ilma kollu għax inkella ħa jillijkja għal ġol-flat tiegħek.”